Monday, March 17, 2014

Sap 'n' Tap - What's Next?

I shared my first experience of tapping maple trees two weeks ago, but that was only half of the story.  We are still collecting sap from two different maples (the third just wouldn't give us any, for whatever reason), and because we only have five jugs for storing the sap, I had to start processing it into something.

My initial intention was to make maple syrup. Though it's recommended that you boil your sap outside because of all the steam it produces, I wanted to do it via stove top. I don't have a kettle for boiling outside and I didn't want to use one of my good pans, so I used the largest stock pot I own and did it on top of the stove. We have a good exhaust fan above the stove, so I wasn't really worried about all that steam.

I brought the sap to a boil...

I boiled it for about an hour and a half and stopped when the liquid started clinging to the spoon and didn't run off like water. I then poured it through some cheesecloth to filter out any debris and I let it cool in a mason jar that I had washed and rinsed in hot water.

It was a little tricky to figure out just when I should take the sap off the heat.  You can use a candy thermometer and I tried that, but it never did get up to the 220°F that was recommended and I boiled it too long. It can turn to sugar in an instant.

If your syrup turns sugary, make candy!
That's what happened with the first batch, so I poured a little bit of it into some candy molds that I hadn't used since my wedding in 1975 (#iamnotahoarder) and voila!  Maple sugar candies!

With the next batch, I took it off the stove when it ran off the spoon like water but I could see a very thin coating of the syrup on the spoon.  That was just right.

It didn't take as much sap as I thought it would to make the syrup - about 2½-3 gallons of sap made a pint of syrup.  I'm pretty sure the trees we tapped are silver maples,  and they're fourth on the list of those recommended for collecting sap, ranked by sugar content. (Sugar maples are best, then black, red, and finally, silver.)

We used some of the sugary first batch to flavor our Cream of Wheat on Sunday morning.  Mmmm!  The syrup will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely, but I have a feeling we won't ever find out just how long it would keep, because it's so good it will be gone before then!

Sept. 27, 2008
Photo by Diana Kuebler
Sometimes we think things just must be difficult because maybe we haven't done them before and don't know what's involved in doing them. Collecting sap and making syrup from it was one of those things that I just assumed had to be messy, must take too long, and you need highly specialized equipment to do it all. Right?  Wrong, wrong, wrong!

There have been some things that I've done just for the experience of doing them, with no intention at the onset of doing them ever again.  You do them just so you can say you did it.  Like when I did the Fort4Fitness Half-Marathon in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 2008.

But I will collect maple sap and make syrup again. It's super easy and honestly, I'm not sure I want to eat pancake syrup ever again. I was never a big fan of it anyway, but now that I've tasted the amber goodness of The Real Thing...wellllll...Aunt Jemima will do in a pinch, I guess.

Photo from
Do you need a maple syrup kit like we used for ours?

No.  You can google "how to tap maple trees" and find lots of ways to do it with things you may have on hand.

Do I love my Tap My Trees Starter Kit?  You bet I do.  It has quality components and everything I needed to collect sap, except for a hammer to help tap the spile in.  I've got an extra spile that we didn't use this year and I plan on buying another aluminum bucket for it for next year.

Is there anything I'd do differently next year?

Not really, but we did learn the hard way that it is a good idea to tie something around the bucket to secure it to the tree. On a particularly windy day, one of the buckets blew off the hook and we lost about a gallon of sap.  Because that happened, when emptying the 2½-gallon buckets, I leave about half a gallon of sap to help weigh them down if the day is windy.

Will you be tapping your trees next year, or do you already do this?

I received the Tap My Trees Starter Kit free of charge from No other compensation was given to me nor was I asked to write about the product.  I am merely sharing my experience and all opinions stated here are my own.


PlantPostings said...

I can remember a lot of people tapping Maples for syrup in Northern Wisconsin when I lived there as a kid. We don't have as many Maples here in Southern Wisconsin, but people do tap them here, too. What a fun thing to do, and your candy looks yummy!

Martha said...

For my Master Naturalist volunteer hours, I helped with the school groups who came to Yoder's Sugar Bush. It is an 1800s sugar camp still run by the same family and the same manner. The sap was boiled down over a wood fire. Some was boiled down in wooden troughs to demonstrate how Native Americans did it. It was so fun to see the kids from Fort Wayne running through the woods carrying sap buckets. Some had never been in the woods. (I will always remember one mother who came wearing white boots and the look on her face when she realized how much mud there was!) I ended up with 2 quarts of maple syrup for my volunteer work. Yum Yum

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